A cull of promoted posts will result in irreparable damage

4th April 2003 at 01:00
One thrust of Sheilah Jackson's column in ScotlandPlus last week is that primary schools occasion the same workload as secondary schools of similar size. It is hard to disagree with much of this argument when matters such as clerical and business support are considered. Her argument for the appointment of principal teachers of learning support and other curriculum areas holds similar merit.

The teachers' agreement allows for the possibility of such posts. Principal teacher posts in secondary schools are fundamentally important to attainment and achievement and similar posts would be no less likely to underpin these objectives in the primary sector.

However, Ms Jackson's line of argument strays far from acceptability when she suggests that posts of responsibility should be shared out between the primary and secondary sectors. She is apparently unaware that the curriculum in secondary schools differs fundamentally from that offered in primaries.

Some may wish it were otherwise, particularly in S1-S2. But it remains the case that secondaries are required to offer a wide range of subjects up to S6.

While this is the case, and as long as we do not have a continental-style centralised national curriculum, it is essential that a wide range of subjects exists and that those teachers who take additional responsibility for these subjects are paid a fairly calculated salary which reflects this responsibility.

Does Sheilah Jackson realise that she is effectively supporting the reduction of promoted posts in secondary schools in order to pay for the creation of more posts in primary schools? Does she seriously expect her secondary colleagues not to be offended at such a statement at a time when the implementation of the job-sizing exercise seems likely to have just that effect?

Ms Jackson is indulging in verbal gymnastics when she refers to the "anomalies of the old system". She should say what she really means by this phrase: a reduction of promoted posts in the secondary sector to pay for an increase in the primary sector.

As a principal teacher in a secondary school and a member of a teaching union whose object is to advance Scottish education (all of it, in every sector), I have always supported my primary colleagues in their demands for better funding and an improved career structure.

Were I to suggest that promotion opportunities should be reduced in the primary sector, I would be rightly castigated. Why is it apparently acceptable for a primary colleague to suggest the reverse?

The issue is the curriculum. The promoted post structure in secondary schools exists to serve the secondary curriculum and not the other way around. There have been no proposals to reduce the secondary curriculum in terms of subjects taught.

Therefore any proposals to reduce promoted posts in the secondary sector and to devalue those which remain will result in irreparable damage to the secondary curriculum and with it our children's educational and life opportunities.

Peter Wright

Falcon Road


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